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1/3 Of Teenagers Skip Breakfast

An alarming third of New Zealand teenagers are going to school without the most important meal of the day with the worst offenders being girls.

New research shows 76,000 children aged between 13 and 17 skip breakfast because they don't have enough time (86 percent) or that they just don't feel like it (32 percent).

Leading dietitian and nutritionist Jeni Pearce says the high level of breakfast skipping among youngsters should be of great concern to parents, teachers and children themselves.

"This survey clearly indicates there is a lack of understanding and a large amount of misinformation among adolescents about the importance of breakfast for optimum mental and physical development," says Ms Pearce.

"It's disturbing that the main offenders are the young ones, the 13 and 14 years olds, and the fact that breakfast skipping is most common among girls also suggests this behaviour may be related to body image."

Breakfast is the one meal of the day that should not be skipped, especially by growing teenagers, because it is more likely than any other meal to meet the body's needs for essential nutrients. Breakfast kick-starts the brain and improves mental and physical performance and actually helps maintain a healthy body weight.

School principals around the country are noticing the effects on children who don't eat breakfast - lack of concentration, reduced energy and physical performance, behavioural problems and poor health.

Questionnaires were sent to every school principal in New Zealand asking them why they thought their students were skipping breakfast and what they thought the main effects were.

Principals were concerned children were skipping breakfast because of poor parenting as well as the often cited not enough time.

Both surveys were commissioned as part of national nutritional campaign Get Going With Breakfast which aims to educate New Zealanders, especially children, on the importance of eating breakfast every day.

Launched in 1998 the annual campaign is the initiative of five of the country's leading food manufacturers - Frucor Beverages, Sanitarium, Quality Bakers, NZ Dairy Foods and Heinz Wattie's - and is supported by the National Heart Foundation, the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation and the Ministry of Health as it is consistent with the Food and Nutrition Guidelines.

As part of the campaign, Ms Pearce will front a national roadshow tour to schools all over the country throughout August and, with the help of some of New Zealand's celebrities, will stress why eating breakfast is so important.

Schools that miss out on the roadshow will receive a Get Going With Breakfast education resource kit and the campaign also features television advertising and supermarket displays.

Interviews were conducted from 18 to 23 June 1999 using AC Nielsen's CATI system and households contacted were accessed from AC Nielsen's ongoing National Media omnibus database. In total 299 interviews were completed with adolescents aged 13 to 17 years giving a margin of error of +/- 5.6%.

ENDS....

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